Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Isochain 6x6 Week 3 1-rep Max Testing

In the 6x6 program, we retest our 1-rep max every 2 to 4 weeks, then reset our working loads accordingly. Results in pounds:

Zercher Squat - 127.333

Quite a jump from the previous 1RM of 91.73! Most of the gain was from experimenting with the body positioning last Friday, eventually settling on position least likely to hurt the back or the knees.

Shoulder Press - 59.333
For my last 1-rep max attempt, I only focused on one cue, and that was to press myself away from the bar as hard as possible. This resulted in a 63.4 lb. force reading, which brought the average up to about 59.333 lbs. which is about a 5 lb. improvement from the previous test.

Seated Row - 137.3

Every time I think I put in as much effort as possible into a rep, there turns out to be an extra gear hidden inside my body to boost the force even more. I can't figure out why I got about 123 lbs. max on one attempt and 151 lbs on another. The average score was so close to the previous one that is I'll be working with the same working load for the next 2 weeks as the previous 2 weeks.

Some resources for Ableton Live and Max For Live

The Ned Rush Channel was recently recommended during an Ableton Live 11 discussion. Saving here for future reference.

9 Incredible functions of Ableton Live

Chordimist as introduced on CDM.  Current store link

aicd acid pattern generator

Pattern Engine:

Arrange Mate

Tip for recording MIDI from generative sequencer: Create a new midi track, set Monitor to ‘In’, recording arm ‘on’ and finally set ‘midi from’ to whatever track is outputting the midi that you want to capture. Your new track should now be receiving midi from another track. Create a new midi track, set Monitor to ‘In’, recording arm ‘on’ and finally set ‘midi from’ to whatever track is outputting the midi that you want to capture. Your new track should now be receiving midi from another track

Tapes is a set of simple audio processing tools for Ableton Live that simulate the unique sound and characteristics of tape recording machines playback

Isol8 is an advanced mix monitoring tool. It divides the frequency range into 5 bands. These 5 bands can be soloed or muted individually. This will help you to concentrate on certain frequency ranges during the mixing and mastering process. Video demo.

HoRNet MasterTool

ElisabethHomeland has several utility devices that look useful

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 2

So far my back held up fine during Zercher Squat sets. I did notice I had to exert extra effort to get my chest up to protect the back. So for the Friday session, I tried reps with my feet closer to the spring. Feet too far from the spring would increase the risk of the low back flexing forward. Feet too close to the spring may cause some strain in the knees. I eventually settled on a position that felt fine for the knees, and also allowed the chest to be up without additional effort. For my last rep, I scored 108.2 lbs - my highest score so far in this 6x6 block.

My shoulder press numbers showed a slight downward trend over the course of the week, but my max force on the last rep of the Friday session was still over 50 lbs. However, I also feel like I've been working harder on every rep this week. Last week, I pushed hard enough to trigger the Isochain beeper at the 38lb. setting (38lbs. being about 70% of my 54-ish lb. 1-rep max), and keep the beeper going, but maybe I wasn't really going as hard for some reason. The best news is continued reduction in pain in the shoulder when reaching overhead or reaching for the opposite armpit.

I also scored a PR in the Seated Row - 151.2 lbs.

I didn't mention it last week, but I've generally kept up my practice of Geoff Neupert's Manly Mobility routine too, working up to 20 reps of diaphram breaths, neck nods, neck rotations, and egg rolls in the Side Lying position at Level 1. I'm not really rushing to get to Level 2, because the Level 2 position is side bridge, which would place greater load on my still-healing shoulder. Manly Mobility works really well for recovery between 6x6 sessions.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Isochain 6x6: Week 1

Since this is my first week of 6x6 in a while, I decided to review the cues for each of the chosen exercises:

Zercher Squat - mimicking double kettlebell front squat
  • Feet turned slightly out, just enough to accommodate the elbows.
  • Chest up
  • Do not collapse knees inwards
Shoulder Press - mimicking double kettlebell shoulder press
  • Pull up kneecaps
  • Protract the scapula to protect the shoulder
  • Squeeze glutes
  • Squeeze abs
Seated Row
  • Shoulders rolled back
  • Squeeze abs to eliminate curving of the lower back
  • Straighen legs - don't have to be perfectly straight but pushing the feet helps generate whole body tension
  • Pull bar towards stomach
One thing that will be different with my 6x6 training in 2023 is my shoulder press. In 2022, I tried different ways of standing and body positioning. I'm confident that consistent adherence to these cues will produce more consistent results.

Good first week of 6x6. I already beat my 1-rep max scores in the Zercher Squat and Shoulder Press.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Isochain 6x6: 1-rep Max Testing

After several months of dynamic, hypertrophy focused training, I'd been looking forward to strength training on the Isochain. There are a variety of ways to exercise to stimulate strength gains, from calisthenics ("bodyweight-only"), to lifting an external weight, to isometrics. For 2023, overcoming isometrics on the Isochain, under the 6x6 routine, will be my primary exercise for stimulating strength gains. It is the only method I found that delivers strength gains without any concern for the load getting so high that the tendons might be damaged.

6x6 starts with a 1-rep max testing session. I followed the usual protocol, which is to apply as much force as possible, record the max force, rest 1 minute, then repeat until I have 3 force readings, then calculate the average of the 3 readings to arrive at the official score. Results in pounds:

Zercher Squat - 91.73
Shoulder Press - 54.87
Seated Row - 137.8

The only surprise was the Shoulder Press result. I thought the score would be higher, not virtually the same as one year ago. Then I remembered that I was now working with the Isochain bar at a higher position than last year. Last year's position had the arm at slightly less than 90 degrees to the torso, which allowed more of the chest musculature to add force. It was set there because when I was bending my knees more, the arm were closer to 90 degrees. After I realized I should straighten the knees, as part of making the body tighter for the press, the bar position relative to my body naturally went down a little. So it make sense that the force numbers would be lower at 90 degrees. Some trainees only train the Shoulder Press at the low angle, because you get maximum engagement of the chest, and the front delt and triceps are lengthened, which all contribute to higher force output compared to middle or high angle. However, the book Ultimate Isometrics Manual advises spending the bulk of training at the midpoint, and cites a number of reasons.

The midpoint position is a little closer to the edge of of my shoulder pain-free ROM, but pressing is pain-free as long as I protract the scapula and keep the elbows within reasonable distance of each other.

Monday, January 09, 2023

2022 Fitness Summary, 2023 Goals, and related thoughts

2022 Fitness Summary

I began 2022 with the following goals:
  • Achieve Handstand Pushup 
  • Achieve One-Arm Pullup 
  • Achieve Pistol Squat with 16kg kettlebell
I began 2022 with an Isochain 6x6 training block which lasted 6 week. In retrospect, the block should have been 8 weeks, because while my Drag Curl and Straddle Lift gains appeared to be leveling off in the 6th week, I was still gaining in the Shoulder Press.

I was able to leverage strength gains from Isochain training to work on the Pike Pushup to Handstand Pushup progression with elevated feet, which is higher up the progression than the level I was working at before I hurt my shoulder and got the Isochain. I was also able to start on Mixed Grip Pullups, which is the next step after regular pullups on the progression to One-Arm Pullups. Both exercises were done with Accommodating Resistance, to increase load on the eccentric phase of each movement, so that the muscles work just as hard on the eccentric as they do on the concentric.

Unfortunately, I started feeling pain in my right shoulder after about 6 weeks of calisthenics with Accommodating Resistance. I eventually lost the ability to reach overhead with a straight arm without pain. Reaching towards the opposite armpit while taking a shower also hurt. I decided not to see a doctor about it because the pain only manifested in certain positions for the shoulder, and gradually started dissipating over time. Thus, I don't have an exact diagnosis the injury. However, an abrupt and large increase in training load, such as going from isometric overhead pressing to working with my full bodyweight on the eccentric phase of a pike pushup - like I did - has been known to cause injury to tendons.

Paul Wade actually warned about this in his classic calisthenics book Convict Conditioning. He recommended trainees "put reps in the bank" by working up to high-rep sets of an exercise, before progressing to an exercise variation that would put more load on the joints. Without "banking reps" first, the trainee is more likely to suffer an injury.

So I should have accepted that my body was not ready for calisthenics with Accommodating Resistance, and instead stuck with Isochain 6x6 for strength training and switched to high volume kettlebell training for hypertrophy.

So for the rest of 2022, I either did calisthenic exercises that did not require me to reach overhead, or trained on Isochain.

I also started training with more emphasis on hypertrophy. Some people think more muscle mass protects the joints. Also, the high volume that is characteristic of hypertrophy-focused exercise stimulates more blood flow through the tendons. Greater blood flow, in turn, facilitates healing and strengthening of tendons.

I spent about 6 weeks on calesthenic Micro Workouts, generally hypertrophy focused, found on the Red Delta Project Youtube channe. Then 6 weeks on Isochain 6x6 for strength training. Then 6 weeks on Isochain 3 Days On for hypertrophy. Then the Easy Muscle program to finish the year.

Bioneer uploaded an updated tendon training video. I'm sure quite of my 2022 training would qualify as "tendon training" - in particular the high volume dynamic exercise and high-intensity isometrics with Isochain.

Strength Gain compared to start of 2022: Because of the injury, nothing to report. I did not retest strength on the same lower body and pulling exercises to compare 2022 to 2023 progress.

Hypertrophy Gains from earliest 2022 log to Jan. 8 2023:

Left Forearm: 2.35%
Right Forearm: 1.12%
Left Arm: 6.25%
Right Arm: 8.51%
Chest: 1.35%

2023 Goal: Press a 24kg Kettlebell Overhead

Having suffered shoulder injuries twice doing calisthenics with Accommodating Resistance, I have no plans to resume that style of training in 2023. For 2023, my training focus will be on restoring the overheard pressing strength that I lost due to the injuries, then working towards pressing double 24kg kettlebells. I am confident I have found a good path towards that goal.

I've had kettlebells for years but hadn't used them much since I suffered a shoulder subluxation/impingement from dropping a 24kg KB during a KB Arm Bar attempt - foolish mistake on my part, as this is a weighted mobility drill, not a strength exercise, intended to be used with a light KB, not a heavy one. I lost weeks - maybe even several months - of training time recovering from the injury. Then I explored exercise tools other than KBs, barbell or dumbbell. Then I tried KB training again in the form of Simple And Sinister for several months.  S&S sessions felt like "workouts" but I did not feel stronger by the time I gave up on S&S. There should have some carryover to a basic calisthenic exercise like the pushup, but there wasn't. So I went back to calisthenics to pursue my goals of handstand pushup, one-arm chinup, planche pushup, and front lever row. I've always wanted those 4 skills because they demonstrate the greatest possible strength that can be achieved in vertical pushing and pulling, and horizontal pushing and pulling; with just one's bodyweight.

I got the Isochain in the first place becaused I'd injured my shoulder during calisthenics training. It offereed me a way to resume strength training evven while injured. But because I was new to isometrics, I was still keen on eventually going back to strength training through calisthenics, and just alternating Isochain and calisthenic training blocks.

Eventually, I started hearing about Geoff Neupert's kettlebell training programs, bought Easy Muscle, then decided to try it after reading about Schedule C. I'd already done some hypertrophy work on Isochain and was curious to compare results. As previously mentioned, I trained under Schedule C, which combined 2 calisthenics exercises with the 2-arm KB swing. I liked the concepts enough to choose Easy Muscle for my hypertrophy training in 2023.

So my 2023 goals is to press a 24kg KB overhead, which I have never done, due to choices which led to injury or just unproductive training time. I think I can achieve this goal by scheduling my training with alternating blocks of Isochain 6x6 for strength and Easy Muscle for hypertrophy. Easy Muscle Schedule A, which is KB clean-and-press, should give me lots of practice of KB pressing technique, as well as hypertrophy. Isochain 6x6 would train me to leverage the new muscle mass for pressing strength gains, as well as continue progressing in my pulling strength and lower body strength.

A stretch goal would be to press a 32kg KB overhead but I don't anticipate that happening in 2023. Completion of a full 8-week training block of Easy Muscle with double 32kg KB clean-and-press would signal to me that I'm ready to try my luck at the calesthenic skills I've pursued in the past, namely handstand pushup, one-arm chinup, planche pushup, and front lever row. 64kg is very close to my bodyweight, so when I can clean and press my bodyweight in sets of at least 4 reps for 20 minutes, my tendons are probably strong enough to handle the load levels of those calisthenic exercises.

Easy Muscle, Schedule A would produce faster results with double KB clean-and-press, compared to one arm at a time. Naturally, I want to work with double KB, starting with my next Easy Muscle training block. However, double KB overhead work demands greater mobility than single KB overhead work. Brett Jones, highly regarded kettlebell coach, recommends t-spine mobiility exercises, particularly the Rib Grab, Brettzel, and knees flexed torso rotation, to meet the mobilty requirement. For each exercise, Jones recommends 10-15 crocodile breaths, and as many breaths as it takes to feel like you stop improving the rotation and be equal side to side. For crocodile breathing and most diaphragmatic breathing drills there should be pauses so a low slow inhale > brief pause > long full exhale with a longer pause before the next breath. The pause should not be so long that you have to "gasp" to start the next breath—they are pauses not breath holds.

I will also continue practicing the OS Dead Bug

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Isochain 6x6 Planning

Having done several months of hypertrophy stimulus training, it's time to do another strength training block under 6x6. As usual, I'll pick one exercise for each of the following: push chain, pull chain, squat chain. The selected exercises:

Zercher Squat - Here I'll be trying to mimic the double kettlebell front squat, with thighs at or just above parallel, which is a sticking point for me. I don't have a specific lower body strength goal for 2023, so I'll be satisfied with any strength gain I get here.
Shoulder Press - Once again at middle angle for carryover to the widest range of motion in dynamic overhead pressing. This should hopefully get my overhead press rep max with 2 16kg KBs closer to 10 reps.
Seated Row - I don't have a specific goal for pulling strength, so I'll be satisfied with any strength gain.

What I'm hoping for, with this 6x6 training block, is restoration of my ability to press a 16kg kettlebell overhead with my right arm, without any pain. I'm confident this will happen because of how high-intensity isometric shoulder pressing reduces pain in my shoulder

Easy Muscle Weeks 7 and 8

Range of motion for the recovering shoulder continued to improve. Sessions generally went smoothly. Instructions called for higher than usual effort for the final week, so I tried to rest for a little less time between sets. For my very last session, I did one more set of chinups and dips each, after the timer expired.

Size improvements based on tape measurements:

Left Forearm: 2.35%
Right Forearm: 1.12%
Left Arm: 2%
Right Arm: 5.15%
Chest: 1.35%